I want to educate golfers on how they can evaluate each shot, and what actually happens on their common misses. As an instructor there are certain prescriptions that I prefer to fix problems. Another instructor might have a totally different remedy to address the same problem. Golfers also have ways to fix problems with what they believe to be the solution, such as, keeping their head down, keeping their eye on the ball, etc. The golfer felt their head raise up, so they think that reversing the feel will solve their problem.
Self-corrections need to be based on facts, not a feel that a player had on a bad swing. The correction needs to be made on ball flight, club to ball contact point, and/or club head to ground interaction.
When I hear players say, “I lifted my head,” “I didn’t keep my right elbow in,” “I didn’t keep my left arm straight,” etc., I always ask myself, “How do they know that?” Don’t get me wrong, even with my knowledge I have misdiagnosed myself while playing golf. As players we cannot see what is going on during the swing. However, we can see the results of what happens. I never hear anyone who I play golf with properly diagnose their actual problem.
For example, I look forward to the day when I hear a player say, after they just topped a ball, “I missed the ground.” I hear players say, “I lifted my head,” and “I took my eye off the ball,” etc. If a golfer tries to fix those elements mentioned they may be making a problem worse, because it may or may not be true. However, we all we know for sure that if the ball was being played off the ground, the club head was higher than the ground at impact. This is a fact that cannot be disputed.
Another example is when a golfer hits a driver that starts right, and stays on that same line it started on. For this example we will assume the golfer hit the ball in the middle of the face. Through research and proven ball flight laws we know that the face was open at impact. Instead of hearing “man…my club face was open,” I hear, “I swayed,” “I slid,” “I got stuck,” “I didn’t release the club,” “I lost my balance,” etc. Again, we as golfers cannot be sure of any of those possible problems or reasons why they happen. With that being said, they are not worth thinking about.
I will give one more example so we can cover the biggest errors in self-corrections that I see. A golfer hits the ground behind the ball. We know the golfer entered the ground too far behind the ball with the club head. The golfer needs to move the entry point into the ground farther forward, or more towards the target. Even golf instructors might disagree on why the golfer hit the ground behind the golf ball. Self-correction for a player is notabout why or how it happened, but about what actually happened, and trying to reverse the pattern.
The three things we can figure out for a fact are: ball flight laws, gear effect and club to ground interaction. Gear effect cannot always be determined on the course, but it can on the range with the right tools, such as face tape. I am not going to go into these elements in detail, but the pictures show a little bit about these elements. If you want more information on these elements of golf performance you can look on the Coastal Breeze News website (www.CoastalBreezeNews.com) where all my articles are posted. I have written numerous articles discussing these elements in detail.
Self-corrections can be made in a much simpler fashion if we focus on these three elements. An example of this process would be if you hit the ground before the ball, don’t think about how or why, but focus on correcting the problem by hitting the ground farther towards the target side of the ball. Give your body and mind a chance to fix the problem by thinking about the facts we can determine. If you keep hitting the ground before the ball, even though you are thinking of hitting the ground in front of the ball, then maybe we need to dive deeper. I believe golfers would be surprised that they have a strong athletic instinct; if they don’t clutter their minds with fixing what they think is wrong with the motion. Another example of this process is if you hit the top of the ball on a swing, try to hit the grass under the ball. By attempting to fix the real or factual problem the body will fix the other factors that may be causing the problem.
I make sure my students are focused on one of the three elements that they need to work on the most, and if they need some coaching through their process I am there for them. I try to give them guidelines or options to fix the problem if they get lost in the process. If they can figure things out themselves, I consider the lesson to be of high quality. If they can figure it out on their own through proper self-correction, then they can figure it out when I am not with them. Self-correction is a very important factor needed to play better golf.
Go see your local PGA professional to see what essential elements you do correctly, and which ones you do incorrectly, so you can properly self-correct on the course and on the range.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.